Global Engineering with a Human Touch

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CU-Boulder students are putting their engineering knowledge to work around the globe by helping to provide clean water, sanitation, and sustainable housing and energy solutions to people in developing communities.

The projects, which are coordinated through the Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities and the CU student chapter of Engineers Without Borders, are changing the lives of people living in countries such as Rwanda, Nepal, and Peru—as well as the students themselves.

“It’s been a really broadening experience and helped me open my mind and consider different ways to do things," says Carrie McClelland, one of many students who were drawn to the program for the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.

CU Professor Bernard Amadei founded the non-profit organization, Engineers Without Borders-USA, which now has more than 12,000 members working in 48 countries, and holds the Mortenson Chair in Global Engineering in the college.

Among the projects CU engineering students have completed are building a gravity-fed water system for a village in Peru, installing solar-powered lighting in a medical clinic and school in Rwanda, and developing a reed-bed wastewater filtration system for a hospital in Nepal.

Graduate and undergraduate students can complete related coursework in the Engineering for Developing Communities track of civil engineering. They also can conduct research, which provides the basis for some service projects.

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Why study at CU-Boulder?

CU- Boulder’s civil engineering undergraduate program emphasizes open-ended problems, global awareness, and undergraduate research. The program is characterized by a high degree of faculty-student interactions, both inside and outside the classroom. Many students participate in service -learning opportunities, including working on international engineering projects through the Engineering for Developing Communities program and non-profit organization Engineers Without Borders-USA, founded by CU Professor Bernard Amadei. Students also can gain professional exposure through student chapters of the Associated General Contractors, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Society of Environmental Engineers on campus.

Civil engineering concentrations at the undergraduate level include Construction Engineering and Management, Environmental Engineering, Geotechnical Engineering, Structural Engineering and Structural Mechanics, and Water Resource Engineering. All of these concentrations also are available at the graduate level along with the addition of Building Systems. There are also options to pursue tracks in Engineering for Developing Communities and Engineering Sciences.

Research Opportunities

The CEAE department is home to state-of-the-art laboratories that allow for testing related to earthquakes, water quality, soil behavior, environmental transport, and more. In addition to working in our laboratories, some of our undergraduate students have recently conducted field research work in appropriate technologies for water quality for developing communities, highway construction safety, and structural applications for disaster management after earthquakes. Undergraduate students are encouraged to pursue research opportunities through independent study, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, the Discovery Learning Apprenticeship program, or research assistantships with faculty.

Where do CU graduates work?

Most civil engineers are employed in engineering consulting firms or state or federal governmental agencies. They also are employed in construction, public utilities, transportation, mining, business consulting, software development, and manufacturing. CU graduates can be found at companies such as Mortenson Construction, Accenture, S.A. Miro, Inc., J.R. Harris & Co., Tetra Tech, Halliburton, RJH Consultants, URS Corporation, J.R. Butler, McCarthy Building, and INTERA.

About 20 percent of CU-Boulder engineering bachelor’s graduates (college-wide) continue onto graduate school, gaining admittance to top schools such as MIT, Princeton, Harvard, Cornell, Stanford, University of California Berkeley, and the University of Texas at Austin.


Job Outlook

Civil engineers are expected to have a faster than average growth rate, with employment projected to increase 24 percent through 2018. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)


Starting Salary

The average salary nationally for civil engineering graduates with a bachelor's degree in 2010 was $50,560; CU-Boulder graduates with a bachelor's degree reported an average starting offer of $50,021. 

Important Announcements

CUEngineering:  A publication for alumni and friends. Read the 2016 edition of CUEngineering magazine here.

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